The game focuses on the story of a 14-year-old Palestinian girl in war-town Gaza, and is described by its creator – Rasheed Abueideh – as being based on actual events. On the game’s website, Abueideh has included screenshots of the game beside photos of shelled buildings, white phosphorus munitions and destroyed vehicles.
Apple’s previous reasoning was that Liyla and the Shadows of War did not qualify as a game. Abueideh shared a message from the company that read:
“As we discussed, please revise the app category for your app and remove it from Games, since we found that your app is not appropriate in the Games category. It would be more appropriate to categorize your app in News or reference for example. In addition, please revise the marketing text for your app to remove references to the app being a game.”
Abueideh has consistently referred to Liyla and the Shadows of War as a game. Apple’s insistence that the interactive artwork could not be counted in the App Store’s Games category therefore raised a number of questions about the politics of Apple’s digital marketplace, as well as the more general perception of games as political objects.
The exact reasons behind Apple’s decision aren’t clear, although as several outlets pointed out other explicitly political games such as PeaceMaker: Israeli Palestinian Conflict have made it onto the Games section of the App Store. Angry Bird clone Israeli Heroes – in which you play a missile emblazoned with Israel’s flag – is also currently available in the App Store as a game.
Regardless of the reasons behind its judgment, Apple has reconsidered and will publish Abueideh’s creation as a game.
The outcome is an interesting one for the future of Apple’s stance on games. Titles such as Papers, Please and This War of Mine touch on explicitly political issues, but are not set in real-world locations (although the latter is inspired by the Siege of Sarajevo during the Bosnian War). As more developers push the connection between games and real-world conflict, how will Apple draw the lines between game and documentary? Can one be the other?